NY/NJ Bombing: The Curious Case of the Incurious Security Guards

Hassan Ali and Abou Bakr Radwan from FBI flyer. EgyptAir Airbus A330-200. Photo credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation and Aero Icarus / Wikimedia  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Two men who were sought as witnesses in the bombing of the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan have been identified as a pair of EgyptAir “in-flight security officers.”

Hassan Ali and Abou Bakr Radwan, both Egyptian nationals whose photo was released by the FBI, are not considered suspects. Instead, we are told, they simply happened upon the travel bag containing the bomb and decided to take the piece of luggage, thereby disabling the bomb. They didn’t know what was in it until later.

Really? Two security officers who work for an airline based in Egypt, had no clue they were looking at an improvised explosive device?

The two men were identified after officials tracked their movements, via security cameras, back to the hotel where they were staying.

Mr. Ali “told me he saw it [the travel bag] and thought it was nice,” an EgyptAir official told The New York Times. “He opened the bag to check it out and found a pot.”

They left the “pot” on the sidewalk and walked off with the luggage. The pot was of course a pressure cooker wrapped in duct tape with a cell phone wired to the top.

Really? They had no idea what a pressure cooker stuffed in a bag might be used for?  One with a cell phone wired to the top?

Would they not have received some kind of training in the identification of suspicious devices? Had they not heard that pressure cookers, left in bags on the sidewalk, were used in the Boston Marathon bombing?

Based on the image of the men distributed by the FBI, officials determined that around the time of the explosion, the men were walking on W. 27th St., four blocks away from where the other bomb went off — on W. 23rd St. In other words, they likely heard the loud boom and still didn’t figure out what might have been the purpose of their lucky find.

Another strange thing is what the perpetrator used to “hide” the bomb. It’s hard to think of a piece of luggage that would guarantee more attention from scavengers in New York City than a Louis Vuitton travel bag — even if it was a cheap knockoff. Why disguise your explosive device in such a distinctive attention-grabbing piece of luggage?

A video of the two security officers making their find was released by law enforcement to NBC 4 New York. The video shows that the men got a good look at what was in the travel bag. It wasn’t just a quick glance. According to the video’s time stamp, the men spent more than a minute inspecting the bag’s contents. NBC 4 points out that “they take the device out of the bag, set it on the sidewalk, and then examine the top and bottom.”

For some reason, the FBI basically cleared Ali and Radwan of any wrongdoing before they even knew who they were, or had a chance to question them. “As airline security officers, have you had any training in spotting potential bombs?” “Have you ever heard of a pressure-cooker bomb?” “Why do you think a cell phone was wired to the pressure cooker?”

After the story broke, it didn’t appear that Egyptian officials were in any rush to interview them. When an official was asked if they had spoken to the officers, he said they had not — they couldn’t find the two men: “It was their day off.”

Really?


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from suitcase video (Mike B / YouTube)

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